We are incredibly lucky to have Joy Haugen, UWCSEA Service Department, originally from South Sudan to talk about her experience being a refugee. She grew up in a refugee camp after moving there when she was 6 years old to support her grandmother.
Recently, Joy visited her Grandmother once more, who had recently been relocated to the same refugee camp, due to the resurgence of the Sudanese Civil War.
She highlighted the deteriorating living conditions of the refugees at the camp. Water is now not free. Before to get water, waiting time was not an issue and the water was free. Now, people have to wait for 3-4 hours and pay for the water.
They also don’t have enough land. They are unable to grow food, they are forced to buy very expensive northern Ugandan land. The South Sudanese currency is considered useless in North.
They are faced with a choice: you get money, 95000 Northen Ugandan Shillings (S$35) or you can get food. You can’t get both.
People are now desperate, they want to go back home, they’ve lost everything. They depend entirely on the UN for everything. A few of the people are incredibly concerned, as they have no way to sustain their family. This has resulted in many ex-breadwinners committing suicide.
Before when Joy was a refugee, there were no issues with food or water, but now since there are so much more refugees living in refugee camps, they are unable to provide enough food and water, which leads to shortages.
UN workers came to the refugee camp while Joy was there, and the living refugees hadn’t received any food for the past two months. The UN workers announced that food would be arriving soon, but the amount of food would be reduced from 12 kgs per person to 6 kgs per person.
“You can see the sadness in people’s eyes”
Some people are lucky, they are getting some help from relatives outside, but a lot of people don’t have this help, and are 100% dependent on the UN. They are unable to farm food and live like they used to. They were able to eat their own food in their own farms, with no limitations, they were completely self-reliant. But not anymore.
“They don’t want people to bring stuff for them, they don’t need help, they just want to go home.”
Their only wish is to go back home because there they can be self-reliant and will have access to everything that they farm. They would be no food and water shortages and they would have no limitations.
According to Joy, the best solution for the crisis in South Sudan is to resolve the crisis of the tribal war that is currently going on and forcing people to leave the country. The tribes need to step down and agree to work together, as this would allow the refugees to move back into South Sudan and be self-reliant again.
In order to volunteer, it is best to volunteer through an NGO, but it is best to undergo training that the NGO has to offer first.
“If you go there without proper training and you go with your heart, you will be overwhelmed.”
Joy’s Stories highlight to us the atrocious living conditions of refugee camps. There is so much that we can do to make a difference.